School Building

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 12th October 2006.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 10:30 am, 12th October 2006

When he next expects to visit Leicester to discuss the "Building Schools for the Future" initiative.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

I would be delighted to visit Leicester to discuss "Building Schools for the Future" and to enjoy my right hon. Friend's legendary hospitality. In addition, the Department's officials and Partnerships for Schools are in regular contact with the authority in working to support the development of the project, which is funded to the tune of £235 million, in Leicester.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East

We look forward to welcoming my hon. Friend to Leicester. As he knows, "Building Schools for the Future" has funded the complete modernisation and rebuilding of two schools in my constituency—Judge Meadow school and Soar Valley community college. What assurances can he give me that the other schools in Leicester, East, and in wider Leicester, will get the benefit of this extraordinarily wonderful scheme?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

I look forward to visiting one or two of the schools that my right hon. Friend mentioned. Leicester is in the first wave of "Building Schools for the Future". There are 16 schools in the project, four of which are in phase 1, so plenty of others beyond the two that he mentioned can look forward to the substantial investment that we are putting into schools.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Has the Minister heard the concerns expressed by Jamie Oliver—or St. Jamie, as my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson calls him—about the schools building programme? He is worried that they may not be built with the kitchens that are needed if kids are to have hot school dinners. He is also worried that in Leicester and across the country there are not the school dining facilities that would be necessary if we could get more schoolchildren eating hot school meals. Does the Minister agree that it would be absurd if the Government's schools building programme made it impossible to deliver better hot school dinners for our children?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

I passionately believe that it is important to have kitchen facilities in our schools, given that I represent a Dorset seat where the Tory county council closed the kitchens some 20 years ago. We do not have any kitchens in schools in Dorset and I am therefore looking forward to the investment, which will come. When we announced— [Interruption.]

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

Mr. Johnson clearly has a lot to say about school food. When we announced the five-point plan on school food, it included the commitment to a targeted capital fund for kitchens in schools. That remains a commitment as we go into the comprehensive spending review. We continue to have conversations with St. Jamie about his concerns and we always enjoy addressing them fully, unlike some.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

During the recess, the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, of which I am a member, visited Leicester, as an environment city, and the school on Eyres Monsell estate in Leicester, South. Those involved have erected, with funds that they raised themselves, a wind turbine generator to produce most of the power that is consumed at the school. Will my hon. Friend consider whether there is scope in the "Building Schools for the Future" initiative to encourage admirable projects such as the one that we saw and were impressed by at Eyres Monsell school?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

Certainly, we are considering that carefully. The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend Mr. Dhanda launched the sustainable schools plan and we are considering whether we can provide capital to assist schools in investing sustainably in their buildings. Obviously, we consider that alongside the design elements of "Building Schools for the Future".